dream, image search results, responsive, search engines, site
co-creator, visual/interaction designer
concept, information architecture, information + interaction + visual design, back end + front end development
Andrea Buran, Eleonora Sovrani
Fortune Cookie

The experimental web image archive aims at replicating on a small scale the way a human image search engine1 might work.

As opposed to a typical image search engine, which returns a set of images based on a user’s query, a human image search engine is powered by multiple users, who consciously search and return visual responses to each other2.

For the sake of the experiment’s simplicity and consistency, the replication is kept at a small scale, that is all the collaborative efforts collected through the site focus on replying to just one, single predefined query word: dream.

Web travelers are invited to populate the archive by submitting their own visual interpretation in response to the predefined query word/abstract concept dream.

The query word dream is chosen because it is an abstract term, and thus it poses a problematic case to image search engines, since it is susceptible of multiple subjective interpretations3, and an image search engine does not know beforehand which interpretation the user is really looking for.

In the beginning the interface of the archive was designed to work similarly to the one of an ordinary image search engine: regretfully a compromise with copyright laws4 on the Internet was required, so the archive was adapted to its current state.

After having read that even using a thumbnail counterpart of a copyrighted image in a web page for the mere sake of documenting such resource—like image search engines usually do—could be well enough to be deemed as copyright infringement, it was preferred not to use any thumbnails extracted from the originals at all.

For the above reason, all the thumbnails of the images collected in the archive are generated by scrambling the order of the pixels of their original counterparts.

The digital image archive was correlated with a physical one in the installation of the same name set up on occasion of the exhibition Can we please play the internet?.

  1. The grand-scale collaboration at the basis of a human image search engine would be similar to the one of a human flesh search engine, but with a focus on images only. 

  2. The goal is subverting the top-down process typical of standard search engines, and transforming it into a bottom-up one. 

  3. Image retrieval for abstract concepts is the search for image content that is not directly present in the image, but needs to be inferred from background knowledge and experience.”

    — Ron Besseling in Designing an Image Retrieval Interface for Abstract Concepts Within the Domain of Journalism

  4. Which are a jungle, so watch out for tigers!